An administrative review of permanent residence applications by the Cayman Islands Immigration Department that took place over two days last week ended with 12 out of 13 people being denied that status.

Another five residency applications were deferred during July 25 and July 26, according to immigration records.

The applications, requesting that the individuals involved be allowed to remain in Cayman for the rest of their lives, were heard by immigration administrative staffers operating under the authority of the chief immigration officer.

The revised Immigration Law approved in October 2013 allowed, for the first time, immigration officials to decide on permanent residency applications. Previously, the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board was required to hear all of those cases.

The difficulty with having the board hear all the applications is that a backlog of residency cases, building since the law was changed in late 2013, had grown to more than 1,100 people by last month. A Cayman Compass analysis of the numbers found that it would take the board more than three years to get through the old applications at its current rate.

The hiring of six new administrative staffers to review the applications, announced last month, allowed another 20 residency applications to be heard over two days. Government officials said, ultimately, the plan is to have administrators work three days per week to resolve the backlog.

“With the administrators working three days a week, along with the work done by the board, the total number of applications being processed weekly will obviously be increasing,” Ministry of Immigration Chief Officer Wesley Howell said.

Before last week, the Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board had heard all of the applications filed by individuals seeking residency since October 2013. It had only managed 10 per week, with about half of that number being deferred – delay until another meeting.

As of last week, 73 applications had been reviewed since May, with 14 having been granted, 28 refused and 22 deferred. Six others were withdrawn by the applicant and three applications were filed to late and could not legally be considered.

Mr. Howell has said the process for hearing residency applications can be quite involved, with hundreds of pages of documents to review. If more information is needed, the board of the Immigration Department has to contact the applicant and request more details before completing the process.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday that resolving delays with the outstanding applications remains a top priority for his coalition government administration.

“I applaud the team’s dedication in doubling the amount of applications reviewed, but also committing themselves to meeting now three days a week to increase productivity,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

As of last month, eight applicants for resident status had filed legal challenges in the Grand Court, seeking damages against government following multi-year delays in hearing their cases. Three of those challenges resulted in the applicant being granted PR status, five others are still outstanding.

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.